My late mother provides an example that suggests advocates on both sides of the political spectrums debating whether voters should be required to present a Photo ID to vote in person may see minorities similarly.
My mother met all the characteristics of a person which politicians believe is not supposed to be able to obtain photo identification. She was a minority. She did not own an automobile. She was an immigrant. And, she was a senior citizen living on a fixed income. Yet, if she would have lived to experience the Texas Photo ID law, she would have been ready to vote at the poll.
After she died, I found 3 of the 7 forms of identification now required to vote in person in her belongings: a U.S. citizenship certificate, a U.S. passport and a personal identification card issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
As I reflected on each credential, I thought about how as a naturalized citizen my mother had a deep appreciation for how the American form of government allowed her to cast a meaningful vote. She cast her last vote by mail in the March 2, 2013 Special Runoff Election for Texas State Senate District 6. Under the new law, if she had chosen to vote by mail again, she would have been exempt from the Photo ID requirement. Still, for her, obtaining Photo ID had nothing to do with voting. In truth, the forms of Photo ID she had were sought for more real-life purposes.
After arriving in the United States legally in 1972, my mother lived and worked as a legal permanent resident for 24 years before deciding to apply for U.S. citizenship. She sought U.S. citizenship in 1996 after President Clinton signed a bill into law in the mid-1990s that differentiated between being a legal permanent resident and a U.S. citizen. U.S. citizenship status ensured that when she reached retirement age her hard-earned benefits would not be impacted.
After my father died, my mother wanted to visit her siblings more frequently in Mexico. As she aged, travelling by bus or automobile became increasingly difficult and no longer an option. With my sisters’ help, she applied and obtained a U.S. passport because the federal government began requiring American citizens of Mexican origin travelling to Mexico to present a passport at the port of entry.
My mother was not a driver, but she had a personal identification card provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). The identification card did not have an expiration date because in Texas ID cards for individuals 60 years of age and older do not expire. During her life, the ID was necessary in dealing with her bank, helpful in dealing with the Social Security Administration and essential in dealing with the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office, as applicants seeking Medicaid benefits must provide a copy of their current driver’s license or DPS ID card.
My mother may have been an example of the millions of Americans who understand the importance of obtaining government-issued photo identification. And this may be reflected in the 99.99 percent Photo ID compliance rate in the four election that have been held in Harris County since the Photo ID law went into effect. In those elections, in a total of 435,753 instances where a voter was required to present a photo ID at the poll, only 145 times did a voter fail to present an acceptable form of photo identification.
It may be too early to provide a definite answer as to the question of why compliance with the photo ID requirement was so high in these Texas elections. And, it may be too early to know why the number of registered voters who applied for an Election Identification Certificate (the free voting credential available to voters who do not already possess an acceptable form of photo identification) was negligible leading up to each election in the third largest county in the nation where the voting population is equal to or greater than 22 states.
Voting rights issues aside, my mother exemplified the resolve most Americans exhibit when faced with challenges. And, her example raises this question: Do opponents and proponents of the Photo ID law think minorities are not smart enough to know that having official photo identification is indispensable to their daily existence?